In a recent workshop that I conducted, I included an exercise on listening. Participants formed pairs and were directed to choose who was going to be the speaker and who was going to be the listener for the first round. Speakers could choose any subject to talk about for 60 seconds. They could discuss what happened over the weekend, a project they were working on, how their day started, etc. Listeners were instructed to ignore them. Everyone got a chance to be a speaker and a listener. In debriefing after the activity, people reported that they were frustrated with the other person – someone who was clearly not listening to them. Some of the examples I heard included: the listener turning away, looking at their phone, or failing to make eye contact. More stunningly, were the reports of the listeners who were instructed to ignore the speaker on purpose; they found that it was hard to appear rude by displaying the behaviors mentioned. They felt uncomfortable with their actions because we’ve been taught to turn toward the speaker, make eye contact and put away distractions such as the phone or computer. All of those actions help us focus our attention on the speaker and listen. Yet, we know that simply displaying these outside behaviors doesn’t mean we are really listening. Good listening requires hearing the words and the message behind the words, what the speaker is feeling, as well as what they are saying. Here is your assignment for this week. Pay attention to times when you think you are listening to someone and you miss their true message (I must say for me this happens more with my husband than it does with work conversations). I’d love to hear from you on this subject, so please post your response here.